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August 31, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

I'm stuck so I thought I'd write...I've been with the same guy (my first love) for 13 years and married for ten of them. I'm 30, he's 37 and we met when I was 17. He's considerate, kind, caring, funny, intelligent, a hard worker and throughout the whole period we've been together we've rarely argued. He's my best friend, a wonderful lover and my family think he's great.

Unfortunately though, there's a problem...He comes from a *large* family and has often mentioned the idea of having kids. I, however, have never had a maternal streak, have a successful career and a huge desire to travel extensively. I NEVER misled him about this.....I always made it perfectly clear right from the start that I wasn't "motherly" and at the very least couldn't begin to contemplate starting a family without having travelled and achieved what I wanted to do in life first. Things have become increasingly rutlike over the past year and it's reached a point of stalemate. He's not content with the childless life and won't travel because he wants kids, and I don't want family (if at all) until I've done everything I want to do in life and in my career. He's mentioned that he thought I would change as I grew older but I haven't (at least not in the way he would have preferred.)

I suppose what I'm wondering is, is it possible for two people who are compatible in practically every respect and who still care for one another to resolve a pretty fundamental issue and stay married? I just can't figure it out...on the one hand I'm thinking that I'm deluding myself about everything and I should just let it go and get on with life (we separated 4 weeks ago to think things over and are now living in separate residences while the house is being sold).

Part of me though is unwilling to accept that it's over after 10 years because of one difference in the lives of an otherwise compatible couple. I really can't see any way in which this can be resolved though, short of either of us going against our natures which would only make one or both of us miserable. It's been tearing me apart since I've moved out, I miss so many things about him (even the annoying bits!) but I can't be something I'm not at this point in time just to make him happy, because I know I'd eventually resent him for it and regret being forced into a situation not of my own choosing.

So...any suggestions? Am I trying to hold onto our relationship simply because how long we've been together? If he were a jerk, fair enough....I could probably handle this whole thing a lot easier. But he's not...so I find myself crying most nights at the moment and cursing the unfairness of it all. Any advice you can give would be appreciated!

-- DilemmaLass

Dear DilemmaLass,

You are right, that is totally no fair. No fair, no fair, no fair. Pout, stomp, pout, stomp, curse, curse. I'm completely serious. This sucks.

And there are a million other things I could say, most of which you've actually said already. Except two:

1. You say "...it's over because of one difference in the lives of an otherwise compatible couple." One difference, yes. But it's a wicked big difference, Dilemma. It's not like standard-shift vs. automatic, you know? A parent (or not) is who you are. Having children redefines you. So while it is totally not fair, it is only and precisely a difference this big that could/should wedge itself between the members of an otherwise tight, solid couple.

2. You talk a lot about not having children "until..." Are you quite serious about this, or is that a stalling tactic? I mean, who among us truly has done everything s/he wants to in terms of adventure and career and freedom? Besides Melanie Griffith. Because if you are serious, there is a way out. Back in, that is. It's going to sound coldly practical, maybe, but it's not like this is going to be resolved on some sort of magic Zen philosophical level. So: Is there a way you could say, okay, we'll try to get pregnant when I have (a) made partner (or whatever your goal) and (b) visited the Far East (or whatever your dream destination). If this does not happen in (say) five years, we reassess, recommit, re-separate, whatever.

If that's out of the question, then you're back at number one. In which case, of course you're crying and cursing. No matter what the reason for your separation ... damn, girl, you've been with this guy 13 years. He's all you've known since Aha! and Tears for Fears and the premieres of Growing Pains and Punky Brewster and when Nightmare on Elm Street was only on Part II. It is going to be really hard. Pout, stomp, pout, stomp, curse, curse. But -- corny but true -- at least you also seem to know yourself.

Breakup Girl



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